EDUCATION MINISTER, Huw Lewis, has admitted that combating extremism in schools is something that ‘should concern us all’. At a recent Senedd debate he was questioned by Plaid Cymru AM, Simon Thomas, who enquired as to what the minister was pro-actively doing on the issue, and in particular, within educational settings.
Responding, Mr Lewis said: “I think Simon Thomas touches upon a very important issue that should concern us all in terms of how schools approach these profoundly important issues. The Welsh Government does have a national community cohesion delivery plan, which helps to enhance a better understanding of communities and enables services to respond to the changing needs of communities. And the Welsh Government funds eight regional community cohesion co-ordinators to provide all-Wales coverage to support the development of work through that delivery plan.”
He went on to cite the proposed new curriculum changes, put forward in the Donaldson report, as a way forward in tackling the problem, stating: “I would, though take the opportunity to also mention my intent that schools individually, and as a whole, need to rise to the challenge of community cohesion, and I believe that Professor Graham Donaldson’s four purposes, one of which is that children should be ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world, demands that we take action. And, in that regard, I’d like to take the opportunity to announce that I believe we need to transform our current religious education curriculum. My contention would be that we rename the RE curriculum and transform it into the religion, philosophy and ethics element of the curriculum, where there is an explicit commitment to allowing children to ponder ideas around ethics and citizenship and what it means to be a citizen of a free country.”
Simon Thomas went on to point out that the issue could not wait for such implementation of a new curriculum, that could be some years off, as well as expressing concern that some teachers may be insufficiently trained for identifying extremism, saying: “If we look to the past, there’s clearly been a certain uncertainty around the Westminster Government’s Prevent strategy and that’s been changed over the years. The evaluation of the Advisory Directorate For Youth, Women and Imams’ Active Development, which is an earlier Welsh Government cohesion strategy with the Muslim Council of Wales—which was set up to combat an earlier kind of exhibition of extremism that was around at that stage, namely Al- Muhajiroun, working in Cardiff— found that it didn’t target sufficiently those at risk of embracing extremism. So, I’m grateful that the Minister said that he’s aware of these issues. I don’t think that we can wait for Donaldson, however, to deliver on some of these things. I would ask the Minister now, as many teachers are in the front line of seeing extremism being expressed in the classroom or, indeed, in pupils’ attitudes to each other, is he confident that they now have the skills and training to deal with such issues?”
The minister admitted that not all teachers would feel confident in reacting to overtly extremist classroom comments, citing, once again, the Donaldson report: “That’s why we do need to shift gear, really, in terms of the support that’s out there and available for our professionals. We also need to be proactive, in my view. I think to be reactive is not enough. We really need to allow young people the space and the time, within the school curriculum, to consider fundamental issues of faith and of citizenship and of the meaning of freedom. That is why, I think, we do need to consider change, through Donaldson, in the current religious education curriculum.”
Mr Thomas cited an EU initiative that he believed should involve the education Minister, saying: “The EU commissioner for education, Tibor Navracsics, has established a process for discussion with education Ministers on citizenship in the curriculum—precisely the issue that the Minister was talking about— and to promote inter-community dialogue. He told the European Parliament’s cultural committee, in response to a question from Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament, that this should include devolved Governments also.”
He further questioned the Minister as to whether or not he was part of that dialogue and if he wasn’t, could he assure the Senedd that he would commit to becoming part of the dialogue, to which the minister responded: “I’m not aware of any contact from the level of the EU on this issue, concerning that strand of work that’s going on in Europe. So, I will undertake to ask officials to seek out the agenda that he mentions and, as he suggests, engage with it.”
Minister visits to celebrate new curriculum and partnership work at Ysgol Glan-y-Môr
YSGOL Glan-y-Môr school was visited last week by the Minister for Education Kirsty Williams. Mrs Williams was visiting the school to celebrate the school’s work in STEM subjects, and their strong working partnerships with local primary schools.
During the visit Mrs Williams met staff and pupils from the school and its four feeder primaries, Pembrey Pwll, Ysgol y Castell and Burry Port, and saw some of the projects that the schools have worked together upon as they look to develop the new Curriculum for Wales.
During the visit Mrs Williams was also able to unveil a plaque to celebrate the schools work with the Wolfson foundation that has enabled the school to revolutionise the technology available to young people in the school to aid their learning. The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities. Since it was established in 1955, over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 11,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “It was a pleasure to visit Ysgol Glan-y-Môr today to meet the staff and pupils and hear about their fantastic approaches to learning’”
“I am very grateful and impressed by the quality of engagement the school has had in the process of developing the new curriculum; they have gone above and beyond its duty, and have excelled especially within the fields of Science and Technology.
“I can’t overstate the importance of developing STEM skills and knowledge, especially for our young women. These skills can offer rewarding careers and exciting opportunities that can bring learning alive, preparing them for the world of work.”
Mrs Sharon Cole, Chair of Governors said: “The Governing Body are delighted with the fantastic achievements of Glan-y-Môr schools students, teachers and Senior leadership team. It is with great pride that we witness our school grow from strength to strength and truly reap the rewards of our motto of “success through effort”. As we move into a new era, with a new curriculum for Wales that will allow our children to thrive in the future, together with the Wolfson Foundation Investment and an already strong STEM ethos, we are excited to witness great potential unfold at Glan-y-Môr.”
Mr Paul Jones, Headmaster of the federation said: “Following an excellent inspection – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) had been identified by ESTYN as an outstanding feature of the school, and had been developed into a best practice guide. Developing ambitious and very capable learners with these sort of transferable skills is hugely important to us a school as we prepare all our learners for further education, training or employment.”
Mr John Jones, Head of School said: “Once again it is great to be able to celebrate exciting times at Glan-y-Môr. We are always looking for the next step in our journey, and even though recently classified as a “green” school for the third successive year we are keen to move ever forward. When inspected in 2017 we were praised for the way that we were developing the skills in our students, but it was commented that we lacked the facilities to enable them to develop and show these skills. Our work with the Wolfson foundation has enabled us to redevelop the facilities around STEM in our school, and our students now have the facilities to match their potential as the school continues to grow.”
Llanelli: Leavers’ Prom for Pen Rhos Pupils
PUPILS in Year 6 at Llanelli’s Ysgol Pen Rhos were able to bring their time in primary education to a wonderful close with a leavers’ ‘Prom’ party (June 13). This was the second year group of pupils to leave the newly-established school in Seaside, which opened in April 2018.
The event was organised by parents of the school who wanted to give the pupils a send-off to remember as they embark on the next chapter in their journey.
School teacher Mr N Davies said: “It was a lovely opportunity for pupils to come together to celebrate the end of their time in Ysgol Pen Rhos. They have worked extremely hard throughout the year and deserve to enjoy every moment before their transition to secondary school.
“We would like to extend a big thank you to parents, teachers, the entertainers at ‘Starlight Celebrations’ and of course the parents who arranged the event and made it a success.
“The school wishes the best of luck to all pupils in their future endeavours.”
Llanelli: Ysgol Pen Rhos thanked for charity boost
A RECENT charity event held at Llanelli’s Ysgol Pen Rhos was a great success after it raised hundreds of pounds towards a worthy cause when staff and pupils turned up for school wearing their own clothes instead of normal schoolwear. Each participant donated £1 to a cause which has a personal connection to one member of the school’s staff.
Deborah Jayne Griffiths has been an LSA at the school for 27 years and is raising funds to provide community defibrillators.
On Saturday (Jun 15), she took part in a skydive at Swansea Airport to raise money for a cause which means a lot to her.
June 15 was the fourth anniversary of the passing of her son, Cameron Jervis, who would now be twenty-two years old. Cameron passed away in his sleep four years ago.
Deborah said: “The school, they said that they’d come up with a money-raising scheme to help towards the purchase of the defibrillators.
“My sister Lindsay Kennedy who also works as an LSA designed t-shirts #jumpforcam for the tandem skydive, which I’ll be wearing as I jump. My older sister Sharon Evans, who works in Heol Goffa also as an LSA, plus her friend Sian will also be jumping.
“I’m petrified of heights so this will be a big deal for me. Cameron had wanted to do a skydive when he was eighteen, sadly he never had the chance, so this is for my boy. He was eighteen when he passed away in his sleep. All the money raised will go into Cameron’s Memorial Account, we then distribute to local communities. We have already had one defibrillator put up in Dafen Park. That has already been used a few times to help saves lives within our community.
“Ideally I want to raise money to be able to provide as many as I can. All the staff have had the defibrillator training here at Ysgol Pen Rhos which is obviously a worthy skill to learn.
I want to thank everyone for their support, this includes family, friends, staff and of course the pupils.”
There is a JUSTGIVING page on Facebook if anyone is happy to donate to this fantastic cause.
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